“There ought to be a law!” Well, there is. The Elder and Vulnerable Adult Referral Agency Act, RCW 18.330, outlines the regulation for Senior Housing Referral Professionals in Washington State.
Why is this important? Early thoughts on aging and care date back to 44 BC when Cicero wrote a text about aging, “On Old Age.” Throughout the ages, many cultures revered their elders, it was an honor to care for seniors at home and many people are still able to do this for family members. Twenty-nine million Americans, or 9% of the population, care for someone over the age of 74. However, this is not possible for everyone and many seniors would prefer to maintain their independence rather than moving in with family.
So where do seniors get assistance and care? For many years, the only option was what we used to call nursing homes. These skilled nursing facilities were very unpopular and were care of last resort. Today assisted living is the most favored and fastest growing long-term care option for seniors in the United States. The population of adults older than 85 will double by 2036 and triple by 2049 with 7 out of 10 people requiring assisted living care in their lifetime. This means the U.S. will need nearly 1 million new senior living units by 2040. This is big business and here in Washington we have great options in the forms of Adult Family Homes, Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities.
So back to the importance of the law. In 2012, the Washington State Legislature determined that locating acceptable housing and appropriate care for vulnerable adults was an important aspect of providing the right type of care for senior citizens. It said that locating appropriate and quality housing options may require assistance from elder and vulnerable adult referral agencies and that these should be required to meet certain minimum requirements and standards of conduct as these are in the interest of public health, safety and welfare. Thus, the law, and we were the first state in the country to have one, and until only three years ago, were the only one with a law in any state.
There are very specific items included in the law which is designed to protect seniors under the Consumer Protection Act. Of greatest importance are:
- Intake Form – we gather information from the client using a minimum of 13 questions on wants and needs to help us make the best possible referral
- Community Profile – we also gather information from each community to fully understand what they offer and the services they provide
- Credential, Inspections and Enforcement Status – in addition to getting information from the communities, we also are required to search the DSHS and DOH websites to look at state inspection notes and any enforcement actions again the community
- Medicare or Medicaid – understanding the financial picture of a client is key to making a good referral and referral fees can not be collected from a community when the client is a beneficiary of Federal or State care programs
So, if you are working with a senior, or the family of one, and there are concerns with utilizing a Senior Housing Referral Professional, please share our law and give them the confidence to take the search off their shoulders. How can I help you with that?
— By Adrienne Miller
Chief Care Officer, Forever Care Services, LLC
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